Q: If I am thinking of selling my park, when do I have to send notice to my tenants?
A: ORS 90.842 requires an owner to give written notice of the owner's interest in selling the park before an owner markets a park for sale or when the owner receives an offer to purchase that the owner intends to consider, whichever occurs first. If possible, I advise my clients to send the notice before entering into a listing agreement and certainly before actively listing the property.
This requirement has been in place since 2015 and HB 2364 did not modify it. In the last few years, my experience has been that the statute is triggered mostly when an owner receives an offer to purchase that it intends to consider.
Q: Does the notice need to be sent to each tenant individually versus all tenants (e.g. "Dear Mr. Johnson" vs. "Dear Tenant")?
A: The plain language of the law states "all tenants," but the 2014 Summary of Legislation states that the purpose of the bill is to require park owners to notify "individual park residents" if the owner is interested in selling the park. Because it appears that the original intent was to notify everyone, the safer course is to send the notice to each tenant individually.
If a tenants committee has been formed, and the purpose of the committee is (in part) to purchase the park, and you have met with the committee in the previous 12 months, you can send a notice to the tenants' committee in lieu of all tenants. Also note that you must send a copy of the notice to the Housing and Community Services Department.
My practice, since 2015 has been to still send the notice to all tenants, even if an owner is aware of a tenants’ committee. This requirement was not changed with HB 2364. The statute did add that the requirement to send the notice to the Housing and Community Services Department must be done “in the manner prescribed by the department by rule.” At the time of publication, I do not believe this rule has been promulgated; however, at this time, I would send a copy of the notice to the Manufactured Communities Resource Center.
Q: What does the notice have to include?
A: (1) The owner is selling the park; (2) The tenants, through a tenants committee, have an opportunity to purchase the park; (3) In order to compete to purchase the park, within 15 days after delivery of the notice, the tenants must form (or identify) a single tenants committee for the purpose of purchasing the park and notify the owner in writing of: (a) the tenants' interest in competing to purchase the park; and (b) the name and contact information of the representative of the tenants committee with whom the owner may communicate about the purchase; (4) The representative of the tenants committee may request financial information described in section 2(2) of the statute within the 15 day period; and (5) information about purchasing a park is available from the Housing and Community Services Department.
HB 2364 increased the time from 10 days to 15 days to allow the tenants to respond.
Q: Does 15 days really mean 15 days?
A: The law discusses "delivery of the notice." I advise my clients that all notices should be sent by first class mail and 3 days should be allowed for mailing just as if you were sending a 30-day notice or a 72-hour notice. Certificates of Mailing (Not certified mail!!) for each notice are strongly encouraged. By way of example, if you send the notice on June 1, then the "15 days" would run on June 18.
Q: What do the tenants have to do after I send them the notice?
A: If the tenants are interested in competing to purchase the park, within the 15 days, the tenants must notify the owner in writing of their interest in competing to purchase the park, the formation or identification of a single tenants committee formed for the purpose of purchasing the park and the name and contact information of the representative of the tenants committee with whom the owner may communicate about the purchase.
In practice, a non-profit entity, like CASA of Oregon, will notify you or your legal counsel of the tenants’ interest in competing to purchase your park. I have found CASA of Oregon to be professional and reasonable with both the manner of delivery of notices and information (electronic mail is preferred). In most cases, you (or your legal counsel) will not be dealing with the tenants’ committee but will be primarily communicating with CASA and their professional advisors.
Q: Do I have to give the tenants my tax returns, SSN and Mother’s Maiden Name?
A: No. But, during the 15 days of delivery of the notice, and in order to perform a due diligence evaluation of the opportunity to compete to purchase, your tenants (through CASA or another non-profit), may request specific financial information which may include: the asking price, if any (this provision contemplates that you may not yet know your asking price when you send your notice); the total income collected from the park and related profit centers, including storage and laundry, in the calendar year before delivery of the notice; the total operating expenses for the facility paid by the owner or landlord in the calendar year before delivery of the notice; the cost of all utilities for the park that were paid by the owner in calendar year before delivery of the notice; the annual cost of all insurance policies paid by the owner as shown by the most recent premium; the number of homes in the park owned by the owner; and the number of vacant spaces and homes in the park. Please note that I have seen requests that ask for additional information; providing information outside of what is outlined above is discretionary. The owner has 14 days to deliver the information to the tenants.
The changes above are three-fold: First, the owner has been given an additional 7 days to pull this information together. In practice, a well-organized owner should have this information all pulled together prior to sending the initial notice so there is no delay. Second, the statute used to call for the information in the 12 months prior to sending the notice, now it is the calendar year. Figuring out this information across calendar years can be challenging. In practice, an owner may want to give information from the previous calendar year together with a year-to-date snapshot of the income and expenses. CASA may ask for 2-3 years’ worth of information; you are not required to give it, but there is nothing stopping you. Finally, “total operating expenses” were added. My practice has been to provide a P&L or pro forma that you would give to any other seller. Such information would likely exceed your obligations.
Q: Is the information protected from disclosure?
A: Yes. The statute allows an owner to designate all, or part of the financial information, as confidential. If the owner designates the financial information as confidential, the parties may establish a list of who can see the information and with whom the information can be shared. In practice, CASA has modified their confidentiality agreement to only allow members of CASA (and their legal and accounting professionals) to see the confidential information. If the confidentiality agreement is breached by the tenants, the owner may recover actual damages from the tenant or tenants.
What happens after I disclose the financial information?
A: Within 45 days after delivery of the financial information (or 45 days after the end of the 15 day period in the unlikely event the tenants do not request financial information), and if the tenants choose to compete to purchase the park, the tenants must: (1) form a corporate entity that is legally capable of purchasing property or associate with a nonprofit corporation or housing authority that is legally capable of purchasing real property or that is advising the tenants about purchasing the park in which the tenants reside; and (2) submit a written offer to purchase the park, in the form of a proposed purchase and sale agreement, and either a copy of the articles of incorporation of the newly formed entity .
The increase to 45 days is a substantial change to the statute. It used to be 15 days. While a bit more onerous, it is less than what was originally being proposed.
Q: Do I have to accept the offer?
A: No. You may accept, reject, or submit a counteroffer. You should view the tenants (and negotiate with them) as you would any potential third-party purchaser. If the offer is far off or not commercially reasonable, you can reject the offer outright. While not required, I usually advise my clients to explain why it's not doable (e.g., unreasonable financing terms, not enough cash, long closing date, too much many contingencies). If the offer is close to the mark, you may want to counter with terms. In my opinion, the key is to deal with the tenants committee as you would any bona fide purchaser. don't treat them differently just because they are tenants.
Nothing in HB 2364 changed this, although a “good faith and fair dealing” requirement was added in the consideration and negotiation with the tenants group. (See below).
Q: What if I just don’t want to sell to my tenants because they’re tenants?
A: In my opinion, this was the behavior that the Legislature was trying to address by adding in the “good faith and fair dealing” requirement. One of the problems with “good faith and fair dealing” is that it is not a specific action that can be measured, but an action that a future judge or jury will likely “know it when they see it.” There is no doubt that if an owner decided not to give a group of tenants an opportunity to compete to purchase or decided not to sell to the tenants when the terms were otherwise commercially reasonable (and better than other offers), just because they are tenants, that behavior would violate the statute. The penalty is severe. The owner could be facing a judgment equal to 10% of the purchase price of the facility plus attorney fees.
As you can imagine, as MHCO was attempting to understand what this would mean for owners, we wanted to understand what the intent of the language was. We were able to work with Chair Julie Fahey (now Majority Leader Fahey) to place some helpful language in the legislative record that would assist future owners (and their attorneys) in understanding what was (and was not) “good faith”.
Chair Fahey’s comments, together with the examples of what is good faith will help any future owner navigate an offer from their tenants.
During consideration in the Committee, Chair Fahey was clear in stating that the purpose of the good faith language was not intended to give the tenants a “right of first refusal” nor to give tenants any special advantage over another third-party purchaser in negotiation; rather, the purpose is to strengthen the requirement that facility owners give a fair chance to their tenants to compete to purchase a facility.
Furthermore, Chair Fahey stated that, “good faith on the part of the parties, both the tenants and any facility owner, is presumed.” A tenant or group of tenants would have to prove that that a facility owner was unwilling to consider an offer from tenants, to negotiate with tenants, or to sell to tenants solely because they are tenants (and no other commercially reasonable factors exists), would violate the statute, as amended.
Additionally, Chair Fahey shared some specific examples of what was acting or negotiating in good faith:
- After giving the notice required by ORS 90.842, the facility owner enters into a non-binding letter of intent with a separate third-party potential purchaser. That non-binding letter of intent references the facility owner’s duty to consider, in good faith, any offer the tenants may make (this is a common practice, and one I advise my clients on as it allows an owner to move on two tracks). It is very important that the third-party purchaser be aware of and respect an owner’s obligation to consider the tenants’ offer;
- After receiving an offer from the tenants, the landlord rejects the offer because the material terms of the offer are outside of what the facility owner would consider. Material terms could include (but are not limited to): price; date of closing, amounts and timing of earnest money deposits; dates of due diligence and contingences and possible effect on date of closing; and whether earnest money is “hard”, or whether the earnest money will go hard; details of contingencies (including financing contingencies);
- After receiving an offer from the tenants, the landlord rejects the offer because of other extenuating circumstances. Other extenuating circumstances could include (but are not limited to): the potential sale of a facility that would include other consideration besides cash (i.e. stock or property trades);
- A landlord rejects an offer from the tenants and the landlord provides a rationale for the rejection that is true (please note that the rationale is not necessary, but providing a truthful rationale, is in of itself good faith); and
- After receiving an offer from the tenants, the landlord makes a counteroffer that is commercially reasonable.
This is not an exhaustive list but provides good guidance on how an owner should consider any potential offer. Again, you should work with your legal professional as you navigate this issue.
Q: What happens if the tenants don't respond within the 15 days or don't respond within the 45 days of me providing financial information?
A: You have no further duties under the statute.
Q: What do I do if I think this process is only being invoked to harass me?
A: Call your lawyer. The parties (including the tenants) are required to act in a commercially reasonable manner. Depending on the conduct (and the ability to establish the conduct and motive) your attorney should be able to develop a strategy to combat poor behavior.
Q: I've entered into a purchase and sale agreement with a separate buyer, and I haven't followed the process. What should I do?
A: Call your lawyer – today. It may be fixable but failing to follow this process allows affected tenants to obtain injunctive relief to prevent a sale to a third-party purchaser (which could cause you to be in breach with that third party purchaser) and to recover significant penalties. Bottom line is to be aware of your responsibilities and follow the statute.
Q: What do I do after I've completed the process?
A: You must file an affidavit certifying that you've complied with the process and that you have not entered a contract for the sale or transfer of the park to an entity formed by or associated with the tenants. The purpose of this affidavit is to preserve the marketability of title to parks. Additionally, there is a requirement that you notify the Housing and Community Services Department who the new owner is.
Q: Are there exceptions to this statute?
A: Yes. The exceptions are listed in ORS 90.848. The most common exception is any sale or transfer in which the facility satisfies the purchaser’s requirement to make a like-kind exchange under section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. In other words, if you receive an unsolicited offer from a potential purchaser who is attempting to satisfy a 1031 exchange you are not required to give your tenants an opportunity to compete to purchase.
Bill Miner is currently Partner in Charge of the Portland office of Davis Wright Tremaine. DWT is a full-service law firm with 500 attorneys on both coasts and in Shanghai, China. The Portland office consists of approximately 80 attorneys and over 80 staff. He works with clients to resolve their legal problems through pre-litigation counseling, litigation, and mediation. He tries cases in state and federal courts and through private arbitration. His experience includes defending and prosecuting business torts; breach of contract claims; disputes between and among members of limited liability companies; residential and commercial real estate matters, including landlord-tenant, title, lien, and timber trespass disputes; and probate and trust cases. He is a frequent and popular speaker at MHCO seminars and conferences. You can reach Bill at: http://www.dwt.com/people/WilliamDMiner/